IT WAS 26 YEARS AGO that Freddy Krueger slashed his way into our hearts. Much has changed since then—nowadays, teenagers are more interested in cuddling than doing it when their parents leave town, content to wallow in their bedrooms making terrible emo art. Oh, and now Freddy is kind of a chimo who talks a lot. But at least in this remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, he never morphs into a demonic striped car, nor does he disintegrate into a shower of light (time has not been kind to the original's ending). The reboot cuts the camp, but it also loses the fun.
It's also a difficult to let go of Robert Englund's original performance as Freddy, but Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) looks good and sounds good, and wears some intense new burn makeup. Unfortunately, the new makeup also comes with Freddy's backstory, in which we learn he used to be a gardener at a school. (Wait, wasn't that a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode?) When the preschool-aged kiddies start telling their parents about Freddy's pervy tendencies, though, their moms and dads gang up and mob him to death—thus somehow turning Freddy into a killer who stalks his now-teenaged victims in their dreams.
While the new Freddy is a bit strained, the thrills are mirror images of the original's—complete with "knife glove in the bathtub" and "girl being smeared on the ceiling" scenes. All the marks are hit, but the remake feels plodding and heavy, as if all the fun of watching Freddy (historically the quintessential jokester of the slasher set) has been weighed down with a Chester Molester gravitas. Freddy's just a bad guy—I don't need to hear about his psychological arrested development. Maybe in the inevitable sequel we can forget all about stranger danger, just like we forgot about New Nightmare and Freddy vs. Jason.